Ghana galvanised after World Cup heartbreak four years ago
Denied what must surely would have been a semi-final spot in South Africa four years ago, Ghana have reason to be bitter. Dominic Adiyiah even more so. It was his effort Luis Suarez illegally blocked in the dying seconds of the game. Still overcome with emotion, Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty.
Uruguay triumphed in the shoot-out; Gyan’s Ghana gutted. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. There is no arguing with that.
Coach James Kwesi Appiah seems to have made it his personal mission to get to Brazil, after witnessing what was regarded by many as a national outrage, as team assistant in South Africa. Securing a place in the play-offs after topping their qualifying group, they were then merciless against Egypt. A 6-1 home leg advantage meant their opponents would have found it easier getting through the Sahara desert.
Perhaps a harder task could be getting out of the group stage. In the opening game, it is a repeat of the fixture that sent them through to the last 16 in 2006 against USA. The score that day was 2-1, and they are 9/1 to replicate that result this summer. It’s all uphill from there, against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, and a Germany team that are historically programmed for international tournaments. Appiah’s team are 28/1 to go one better in Brazil and reach the semi-finals.
Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Fatau Duada stands in the way as the last line of defence. He was one of the reasons they only conceded three in qualifying, though was aided by an efficient rear-guard.
Right back Samuel Inkoom played the most minutes in qualifying, and has a host of clubs from around Europe casting envious eyes in his direction. He is, however, concentrating solely on the World Cup for now.
Speaking ahead of the competition, the Bastia defender said: “We know we are not the best team at the tournament, but we are obsessed by going a step further than we did in South Africa. We are realistic about our target, which means we are cautious in measuring our optimism and want to keep working harder every step of the way to achieve our desire in Brazil.”
He could be joined in the back four by strong Eskisehirspor centre half Jerry Akaminko who played three qualifying matches as well the play-off rout against Egypt. Leading a plethora of clubs for his signature are Monaco, who are reportedly readying a lucrative offer, and his price could only increase if he helps Ghana to at the very least clean sheets in the group stage.
At 23, Standard Liege defender Daniel Opare is at nowhere near the peak of his career, and his pace and vision compliments Akaminko’s attributes perfectly. Competing for places in defence is Isaac Vorsah, and Jonathan Mensah, who both provide adept cover.
Progressing up the pitch into the engine room, Ghana are again spoiled for choice. Sulley Muntari’s career seems to have spanned years, though at the age of 29, he is still in his prime. He dictates the tempo for his club AC Milan, and will likewise be the lynchpin for his country in Brazil.
Having missed the last World Cup on native African soil, Michael Essien knows chances to impress on the global stage are running out. He is the perfect foil for Muntari, in the centre of the park and adds steel to a midfield already full of industry.
Kevin Prince Boateng has been a revelation since leaving England. He improved steadily while at AC Milan, and has hit it off at Schalke this season contributing six goals, while restoring equilibrium.
Speed merchant Andre Ayew has earned rave reviews from coaching staff at his domestic base Marseille recently, winning player of the month for April at the Ligue 1 club. His direct running, ability to get behind defences, and provide assists are characteristics key for any team he plays in, and should flourish this summer.
Linking up with him further up the field could be brother Jordan, who has shown promising glimpses on loan at Sochaux from Les Phoceens, contributing four goals. It is no way inconceivable that Christian Atsu could emerge from this tournament as the next big thing to come out of Ghana. On loan at Vitesse Arnhem from parent club Chelsea, he has recently won player of the season for the Dutch outfit, and chipped in with a goal in the play-off victory against Egypt.
Undoubtedly the main man, and waiting to be unleashed once again is Gyan. Condemned for following the money trail to Middle East club Al Ain, he has defied critics, delivering consistently.
Although a rematch against Uruguay would be a dream, it seems Ghana are shooting for the stars.